imagine the irony of getting writer’s block when composing a newsletter on clarity. What should have been an hour’s effort, turned into a chore of a couple of hours. Frustrated, I lacked any positive drive to write and had little optimism to finish. With so many interruptions, instead of being in the flow, I experienced a drain of energy, and with a thin line between clarity and confusion, it was easy to lose concentration and get in a rut.
Everyone experiences these ups and downs, and you’ve probably found yourself in a similar situation. You’re eager to get things done but your mind starts to wander, you have too much on your plate, or maybe you’re placing too much emphasis on perfection instead of progress. Whatever the case, if you forget your motive for getting started in the first place, you’ll lose enthusiasm to cross the finish line.
Mental clarity and good health
Mental clarity is defined as a state in which your mind is focused with clear perception. Mental clarity isn’t a medical condition itself but a symptom of other medical conditions. Developing mental clarity is not only critical to well-being, but it also sharpens memory and thinking, improves judgment, and keeps you mindful and in the present. As a result, you’re actively engaged and better capable of making sense of your thoughts, staying organized and productive as you work through day-to-day tasks, and dealing with any issues that may arise.
With a clear mindset, you’re focused and driven, you avoid getting overwhelmed by indecision and constant worry, and can more easily increase your ability to bounce back from trauma and depression.
Mental clarity reshapes your thoughts and rewires your brain by improving its neuroplasticity, its ability to adapt to change. For example, if you’re in a car accident that traumatically impacts your speech, your brain may require therapy to relearn the skill and to repair the pathways or create new ones. But rewiring the brain doesn’t always require therapy, with some simple exercises, you can improve your brain’s adaptability and increase its neuroplasticity.
And while your mental health focuses on how well your mind processes and understands information, your emotional health involves your ability to understand, manage and express your emotions. So when you develop a clear mindset, you can improve your overall emotional intelligence. That’s how starting with clarity boosts your EQ levels and sets you up for success.
Getting clear on clarity
Continuously being connected, whether in a virtual meeting or responding to email, is even more difficult and exhaustive for today’s workers. The struggles with boundary-setting formerly faced primarily by small-business owners and entrepreneurs are becoming the next norm for many now working remotely.
But there’s hope.
Building self-awareness to positively alter your lifestyle and implementing some healthy habits can help you better focus throughout the day without having to compromise your well-being. Below you’ll find some tips to help. The techniques are not conclusive, but they’re a start to help you improve your focus and mental clarity, both at home and work, whether you are at a physical or a home office.
Try these techniques to get better
Avoid irregular sleep It all starts with a good night’s rest. A healthy circadian rhythm is fundamental to your health, so aim for at least seven hours of sleep each night to allow your body and mind to rest and prepare you for the next day. Before retiring to bed, try to limit exposure to blue light emitted from electronic devices, and turn off notifications and access to email and other work-related tasks.
Build routines Get in the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time, every day, even on weekends. If you struggle with waking up, set two alarms, one near you and another across the room to encourage you to get out of bed. Allow yourself ten minutes to wake up gently, perform some exercises as you move from a lying to a standing position, and if you practice yoga or meditation, set your intention for the day. And don’t forget to start your day with a healthy choice to break your fast.
Avoid clutter and distractions Recognize the importance of well-organized working space. Just as decluttering a physical space can prevent allergies and asthma from dust and pests, decluttering your mind prevents distractions and allows you to feel calmer and minimizes pressure.
Organize your space Keep your working space clean and orderly. It’s much easier to prepare a meal in a neat kitchen or get a good night’s rest in a clean room with a tidy bed. Similarly, when it comes to your office–which these days may be extra space in your basement or bedroom–keep your “stuff” labelled and in storage to reduce injury and make room.
The feeling of being clutter-free can also inspire creativity, so organize your work by keeping a task list with a calendar reminder and identifying short-term goals to enjoy a sense of accomplishment.
Another way to avoid distraction is to effectively manage the constant barrage from social media and email notifications, calendar reminders, phone calls and meetings. So set focus times in your calendar and turn off notifications to keep your mind focused on one thing at a time.
Avoid boredom and inactivity Now that most of us are working remotely, it can be quite challenging to define boundaries, where you work and play, and when you start and finish. Setting boundaries between your office and home, avoiding being constantly connected can have long-term negative impacts on your physical and mental well-being.
Stay active Punctuate your day with exercise, get out of your chair and walk around, grab a healthy snack. Try meditating, read a book, or go for a walk. These simple practices help train your thoughts to flow in a positive direction and declutter your mind.
Avoid negativity A negative mindset can often be a product of mental illness or insecurity and it can become an unhealthy habit that breeds cynicism. If left unchecked, it can create neural pathways in the brain that encourage sadness and depression.
Become more optimistic Optimism, defined as being hopeful and confident about the future, and positivity, the practice of having an optimistic attitude, yield many benefits to your physical and mental health, including higher energy levels, faster recovery from illness, less stress, lower rates of depression and risk of major illnesses, such as stroke, cancer, heart disease. Optimism and positivity can help you reduce stress, and combined with a clear mindset, you will get more focused to keep the direction of your goals aligned to your purpose.
A clear mindset also empowers you to manage your inner critic and defog your mind from excessive worry. To get better at this, keep a journal and record wins and reasons for being grateful, even on the days you’re having a difficult time. Clarity of thought helps you become more stable so you can effectively mitigate risks, make better decisions, and respond rather than react to external stimuli.
Avoid seeking perfection Perfectionism may seem like a noble pursuit but it can be the main reason you procrastinate. In short, pursuing perfection can often be very painful and quite unproductive.
Aim for progress Stay clear on what you’re trying to achieve and break your task into smaller ones and be mindful to avoid falling into the spiral of constant tweaking. When it comes to long-term goals, identify what you must get done daily and weekly to achieve progress. Remember, progress over perfection means you’ll get more done and learn to get better in the process.
Avoid imbalance Seeing the big picture is helpful, but sometimes it may be necessary to zoom out to see the smaller, more intricate details as well. When you lack balance and place your focus stubbornly on one area, you become inflexible, either you get lost in the weeds or you speed ahead to get things done with haste.
Find a healthy middle ground Remind yourself often of your goal and keep the end in mind–what you’re trying to achieve–and try to fluctuate between seeing the big picture and getting into the details. You can do this more effectively by teaming up with others, asking for help and enlisting the expertise of others who complement your skills. For example, if you have a conscientious team member who prefers to focus on detail, delegate an analytical task to them so you can focus on the big picture and keep things on track to see completion. Using tools like DiSC® can help you understand the personalities of others, what makes them tick or tick them off can help.
Bringing It All Together
As mental clarity sits at the center of well-being, optimal performance, and productivity, it is the key to your emotional intelligence. When you take care of your mental health, you improve your ability to understand and better manage your emotions. And when you constantly retrain your thoughts and increase your brain’s neuroplasticity, you improve your mental and emotional well-being.
Remember to start with the little things, build healthier habits that lead to a healthier lifestyle, perform simple exercises like doing your bed, meditating, journaling, or setting a daily intention to build momentum.
With a clear mindset, you’ll also worry less, make sound decisions, develop a healthy lifestyle, and better navigate crises. When you get clear on what you want and how to get it, you’ll bring more certainty to your life.
Gaining clarity is a process and we’re all trying to get better at it, myself included. That’s why I’m looking to learn from you when I share these articles, so if you have ideas to share and topics you’d like me to write about in upcoming editions, or simply want to provide feedback on what you’ve read, drop a note in the comments. And if you’d like to learn more about developing your EQ to get clear on your goals, let’s have a conversation about how I can help.